Ohioans leave their keys in their unlocked cars — a lot.

They also get their cars stolen — a lot — because they leave their keys in their vehicles.

The Buckeye State ranks fourth in the nation for the most vehicle thefts when keys are left inside, according to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

In the three-year period from 2016 through 2018, Ohio had 12,596 vehicle thefts with keys left inside. The three states ahead of Ohio are: California (31,185), Florida (17,300), and Texas (15,511).

"It amazes me with the push-button starts that so many people leave their keys in their car," Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said.

He estimated that 75 percent of the stolen vehicle reports in the city involve keys or fobs being left inside, making the vehicle an easy target for a thief.

He and other police officials advised people never to leave their keys in their cars and always lock their vehicles, even in communities where they feel safe.

"People should never underestimate the ability for someone to take their car," Bath Police Chief Vito Sinopoli said. "It can happen anywhere."

Nationally, vehicle thefts have declined since 2003, but in recent years, there have been some upticks in thefts; most notably in 2016 when 765,484 vehicles were reported stolen — an increase of 57,726 from 2015. Also on the rise are thefts of vehicles with keys or fobs left inside, the NICB said. A total of 81,911 vehicles were stolen this way last year — an 87.6 percent increase since 2013.

The NICB noted that these thefts may be even higher because many drivers don’t admit to making the mistake, and it’s not reported in the police report or insurance claim.

“Thankfully Ohio’s police and State Highway Patrol do a great job of recovering stolen vehicles,” Ohio Insurance Institute Dean Fadel said in a prepared statement. “Ohio was not one of the top 10 states noted in the NICB report that have the highest rate of unrecovered vehicle thefts when keys are left in the vehicle.”

The report says drivers allowing their vehicles to warm up in the fall and winter may play a part in explaining why so many cars are stolen with keys in them. The most thefts happened in December with 22,155. It was followed by January (21,384), November (20,080), October (19,918) and July (19,811).

The most popular date for having a vehicle stolen with keys inside is Jan. 1, with 321 thefts. Jan. 3, Jan. 5, Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 round out the top five, in that order.

Meanwhile, the most popular day of the week for thefts was Monday with 34,948. Friday was second with 33,582.

Macedonia police Lt. Vince Yakopovich said not a single vehicle was stolen in Macedonia over the last three years because of keys being left in a vehicle, and he could recall only a single instance in the last six or seven years.

"I guess we're lucky," he said.

Years ago, the community ran campaigns urging people not to leave their keys in their vehicles, and even sent warning letters to those caught leaving their vehicles running and unattended, Yakopovich said.

The NICB offered the following tips to decrease the likelihood of your vehicle being stolen:

• Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or fobs.

• Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.

• Take a picture of your registration on your cellphone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.

• Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick errand.

To read the full report, go to: www.nicb.org/media/701/download.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.